When I was interviewed for my current job back in March, I remember saying that if required to do so, I'd be willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to serve the NHS in its hour of need. Well, six months later, I've finally had the chance to prove it.
I was doing a clinic this morning (I won't say where, for legal reasons) and was about to administer eye drops to a burly bloke with tattoos, when he suddenly looked to the side and said "Is he with you?". Naturally I assumed the man was seeing double, and was about to ask him when he last saw one of his two opticians, when I suddenly noticed a spider in the sink next to me. Well I say spider. To be honest I've seen smaller dogs. It's the first living creature I've come across with fatter legs than Amelie. I didn't know whether to squash the thing or muzzle it.
My patient didn't seem particularly bothered that I'd just sat him next to an extra from 'Alien'. In fact he even commented that "It's funny just how terrified people are of those things, isn't it?". I smiled and agreed. Although I'm not sure he heard me, as I was backing away across the room at that point, and praying that the thing couldn't jump more than six feet.
Having despatched the man back to the waiting room, I was then faced with a quandary. The spider was positioned at eye level, immediately next to the chair in which I seat patients to do the sight test, and if only one of those people glanced to the right, I could have a major incident on my hands, with a high probability of fainting and/or mass hysteria. And that's just me.
So I looked around for something large enough to trap the thing. Maybe a wheelie bin, a water butt or just a very large bucket. I found none of those things. But in the end, I decided that contrary to first impressions, and despite the huge size of the beast in question, my tea mug was probably wide enough. I have to say, you've no idea of the bravery it takes to approach something that fearsome armed with nothing more than a teacup and a laminated infection control leaflet. I'd rather get up close and personal with a swine flu patient.
But I managed it. And by some miracle, I found myself standing alone in a consulting room with an eight-legged monster in a mug. At which point I remembered that the windows in most clinics don't open very wide, in case patients try to throw themselves out after hearing their results. The only route to the outside world was via a packed waiting room full of people with anxiety disorders. And I couldn't kill something that size without everyone being alerted by the sound of breaking bones. So I took the only course of action available to me. I sealed it in a clinical waste bin. Admittedly that's not what they were designed for, but for all I knew, the spider had MRSA. It could have been an infection control issue.
Anyhoo, it was possibly the most selfless, heroic and traumatic episode I've ever lived through. But it could have been worse. Apparently they had a mouse in reception on Wednesday.